Psychiatrists are specialist medical doctors who diagnose and treat mental illness and mental disorder. Qualifying as a psychiatrist involves first obtaining a medical degree and then undertaking a minimum of 5 years' postgraduate specialisation in psychiatry. To practice, psychiatrists must be registered with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
The nature of their training means that psychiatrists have a strong grounding in both biological and psychological frameworks for understanding mental illness and disorder. They are trained both to recognise and treat the effects of emotional disturbances on the body as a whole as well as the effects of physical conditions on the mind.
Like general practitioners, psychiatrists can prescribe, administer and monitor medication and provide physical treatments. They may also offer psychotherapy - talking treatments - and which involves the psychiatrist and patient discussing problems during regularly scheduled sessions. Depending on the extent of the problem, such treatment may take a few sessions over several weeks or many sessions over a longer period of time.
Psychiatrists work in
the public health system (through hospitals, clinics and community mental health services), in private practice, and in universities.
A letter of referral by a general practitioner is normally required to visit a psychiatrist and is necessary to claim the Medicare rebate for the consultation.
beyondblue also have a national listing of health practitioners with an interest and/or expertise in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Psychiatry services are covered under Medicare. If you see a psychiatrist as a public patient (for example, through a Community Health Centre or as a public hospital patient) you are unlikely to be charged. If you consult a psychiatrist privately, you will likely be charged a fee, only part of which will be reimbursed to you under Medicare. The fee varies between psychiatrists. Enquire about the psychiatrist's fee structure before making a first appointment. Some psychiatrists will bulk-bill patients who are on a pension or unemployed; some will bulk-bill all patients. Being 'bulk-billed' means that you will not need to pay any money.